Clinton gets a bounce

Following her strong performance in last Monday’s first Presidential debate, opinion polls indicate that Hillary Clinton has retaken a clear lead over Donald Trump in both the Electoral College and popular vote.

This week the Electoral College changes are all in Clinton’s favour, and she now leads in states worth 323 Electoral Votes (EVs), to Trump leads in states worth 215 EVs.  

Since last week, North Carolina (15 EVs) and Nevada (6 EVs) have flipped from Trump to Clinton leads, and Maine (4 EVs) from tied to a Clinton lead.  Above is this week’s Electoral College map from ElectoralVote.

Clinton’s position has also improved in states where she has at least a five-point lead.  She now leads by five points or more in states worth 236 EVs, up from states worth 206 EVs last week (light and dark blue states).  

Trump has at least five-point leads in states worth 165 EVs, down from 180 last week (light and dark red states).  States where one candidate is leading by less than five points are white with a blue or red border.

The Huffington Post national Pollster aggregate has Clinton leading with 42.9%, followed by Trump at 39.4%, Libertarian Gary Johnson at 8.0%, 6.0% undecided and 3.7% for "Other" candidates including Green Jill Stein.  Last week, Clinton led 41.9-39.3.  

Pollster charts give Trump a 57% unfavourable, 37% favourable rating (61-35 last week), and Clinton a 55% unfavourable, 42% favourable rating (56-41 last week).  Obama has a 51% approve, 47% disapprove job performance rating (50-47 last week).

Trump's late night tweets and tax matters

Since the debate (last Tuesday Australian time), two events could further impact Trump’s poll ratings.  During the debate, Clinton pointed out that former Miss Universe Alicia Machado had been called “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping” by Trump after she put on weight.  

Rather than let the matter drop, Trump inflamed it by falsely Tweeting in the small hours of Friday that there was a sex tape of Machado.  Machado does not actually have a sex tape, and his claim is unlikely to help his standing with Hispanics or women.

Yesterday, The New York Times revealed revealed that Trump had taken a $916 million capital loss in 1995.  

As this loss was so large, it could apparently be used to offset all of Trump’s taxes for the next 18 years, so it implies that he has not paid tax for the last two decades.  If this story is true, it could explain why Trump has avoided releasing his tax statements, which other candidates since the seventies have always done.  Trump’s hardcore base will stick with him no matter what, but the average American is likely to be disgusted by these antics.

According to most media pundits and opinion polls, Hillary Clinton was the clear winner of last Monday night’s first Presidential debate.  Of seven polls listed in a tweet by @Taniel, Clinton was perceived to have won by at least 20 points in six.  These polls are scientific polls, and not the media website polls that Donald Trump dominated.  Trump and some of his supporters are claiming that the website polls are better, but this is either a fabrication, or a complete misunderstanding of the science of polling.

ElectoralVote has a long analysis of Trump’s mistakes during the debate.  He became angry, making many interruptions of Clinton, and telling outright lies.  As a result, he failed in what was his most essential task – appearing Presidential during the debate.  In addition, he made two major gaffes, saying that making money from the 2008 housing collapse was business, and that he was smart to not pay income taxes.

Public Policy Polling surveyed five swing states following the debate.  By 13-16 point margins, voters on average in the five states polled thought that Clinton was more prepared and had a better temperament to be President than Trump, and that she was more trustworthy on nuclear weapons.  Trump led by 20 points on who was more likely to start a nuclear war.

If Clinton is far ahead of Trump on being Presidential, why is the race competitive?  

Partly this is because Clinton is unpopular, and is widely perceived as dishonest and untrustworthy.  The polarisation in the US also explains the competitive race: many Republicans hate all Democrats, and vice versa, and the stakes are very high at this election.  

Whoever wins the election will be able to nominate at least one judge to the US Supreme Court, breaking the current 4-4 left-right split, with one seat vacant following the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016.  The Republican controlled Senate has refused to allow Obama to appoint a replacement for Scalia.  Many hardcore conservatives dislike Trump, but loathe the thought of a left wing Supreme Court, so they will vote for Trump.  Trump has been able to consolidate Republican support, now winning over 80% from Republicans.

Remaining debates

The Vice Presidential debate will be held on Wednesday at 12 noon Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT) between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence.

The final two Presidential debates will take place at noon next Monday 10 October and Thursday 20 October AEDT.  The second debate will be a Town Hall format, with the candidates taking some questions from uncommitted voters.  The final debate will have the same format as the first debate; candidates will stand at a lectern and be questioned by a moderator.


Dr Adrian Beaumont

Election Watch polls analyst


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